“I can only imagine what it would be like having him iso’ing on one side, and C.J. in a corner, and me on the opposite wing and Nurk (Jusuf Nurkic)…I can only imagine how hard it would be to guard us when it’s already hard to guard us. We can compete with anybody in the West, but I think when you get to those teams like Golden State, if we happen to run into them in a playoff situation now—we getting in the paint, and if they want to help off someone like Melo…good luck.” – Damian Lillard
“If we add Carmelo Anthony, we’ll be a top-three team in the West immediately.” – C.J. McCollum
These are some bold claims made by the two Portland Trail Blazers stars just a few days ago. Carmelo Anthony has been a big name this offseason. There’s been talk of him going to the Rockets and Cavaliers, and now the Blazers have thrown their name in. While we’ve heard from the two Blazers guards that Carmelo Anthony has interest in playing for the Blazers, we still haven’t heard of any real trade discussions happening between the two sides.
Despite not hearing any significant news between the Knicks and Blazers, these claims by Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have left me thinking about how the addition of Carmelo Anthony would effect the Blazers standing in the Western Conference. Would they be able to back up their words?
Let’s look at what Damian Lillard had to say one more time, “I can only imagine what it would be like having him iso’ing on one side, and C.J. in a corner, and me on the opposite wing and Nurk (Jusuf Nurkic)…I can only imagine how hard it would be to guard us when it’s already hard to guard us. We can compete with anybody in the West, but I think when you get to those teams like Golden State, if we happen to run into them in a playoff situation now—we getting in the paint, and if they want to help off someone like Melo…good luck.”
Damian Lillard is right when he said it’s already hard to guard them. Lillard has been a great scorer ever since entering the league. He’s improved his scoring average every year of his career so far. While C.J. McCollum hasn’t been a great scorer from day one, he has improved every season also. This past season, Lillard averaged 27.0 points per game while McCollum averaged 23.0 per game. Both of these guards are in the prime of their careers, and I expect them both to continue their improvement.
Jusuf Nurkic added another element to the Blazers offense last season. Before the Blazers traded for Nurkic, they were a below .500 team. After acquiring Nurkic, the Blazers went 17-8. Nurkic only played in 19 of those 25 games because of an injury, but he was incredibly effective in those 19 games. Nurkic averaged a double double in his 19 games (15.2 points and 10.4 rebounds). Going into next season, the chemistry between Lillard, McCollum, and Nurkic will be increased. If they can all stay healthy, the Blazers 11th ranked offense will be much improved.
Now let’s throw in Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo would bring a 22.4 scoring average to this team. Can you imagine how good this team could be offensively with three 22+ point scorers, along with emerging offense from Nurkic?? One part of Damian Lillard’s quote I don’t agree with, is the part with Carmelo iso’ing. I think Carmelo would be better off when he’s not being a ball dominate player. He’d have to play a similar role to the role I think he’d play if he ended up with the Houston Rockets. He’d be more effective if he let Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum create shots for him, rather than iso’ing and taking some questionable shots. The addition of Carmelo Anthony to an already good offensive team, would cause problems for a lot of teams in the league.
Here’s where I disagree with the claims made by the two Blazers guards. The Blazers ranked 24th in defensive efficiency last season. That needs to improve if they want to be a top three team in the Western Conference. When it comes to improving defensively, Carmelo Anthony isn’t anywhere close to the answer.
Jusuf Nurkic played well defensively for the Blazers during his short time with them last season. 7.1 of his 10.4 rebounds were on the defensive side. He also averaged 1.9 blocks and 1.3 steals. Nurkic is a rim protector who can have a big impact on the defensive side, but he wouldn’t be enough to make up for the lack of defense in other areas. He would likely elevate the Blazers defensive efficiency above 24th, but I don’t see him being able to get them into the top 10.
In today’s NBA, you have to be able to play defense if you want to stop all the high powered offensive teams. The Cleveland Cavaliers were ranked 2nd offensively, but 22nd defensively. This is the reason why they had so many struggles throughout the season and in the NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors had the number one defense, and they shut down the Cavaliers offense in just about every game of the Finals.
Good Luck Western Conference? Good Luck Warriors?
After Damian Lillard made his bold claim about adding Carmelo Anthony, Draymond Green responded by saying, “😂😂😂😂😂 give it a break.” I agree with Draymond Green, but let me first say that all this talk is currently irrelevant. If the Blazers add Carmelo Anthony to their roster, then they can start making statements about how good they’ll be with him. Until that happens, they won’t have Carmelo, so their claims of being a top team with him don’t matter anyway.
If the Blazers did end up adding Carmelo Anthony, I think they would have trouble beating the Warriors.
Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Carmelo Anthony, and Jusuf Nurkic.
Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green.
Who ya got? I’ll take the Warriors. The Warriors are too much to handle on offense and defense. I think the Blazers could be more competitive with the Warriors, but beating them in a best of seven series? I don’t see it happening.
The Blazers were playing in a loaded Western Conference last season. A conference that has become even more loaded this offseason. Even though a lot of teams have loaded up their rosters, if the Blazers got Carmelo, I think they’d be better than their previous 41-41 record and number 8 seed. They’d give a lot of teams problems. With that being said, I don’t see this team being a top-three Western Conference team. With teams like the Warriors, Rockets, Spurs, and Thunder in the conference, I could see this team being somewhere from a 4-7 seed.
Portland first has to acquire Carmelo Anthony. Even if they don’t, I think this team will be improved going into next season. We’ll see how the Carmelo Anthony situation plays out. The Blazers may not end up with Carmelo, but if they do, I’ll be excited to see if they can back up their bold claims.